When I talk to people who are retiring, travel is almost always near (or at) the top of their list to do as soon as they quit the 9 to 5. What’s more, it’s often the more adventurous or exotic side of travel too – cruises, safaris, treks and tours of countries such as China.
There is also a significant rise in the number of people travelling alone. Adventure tour operator Wild Frontiers reported a 30% rise in visits to its solo travel page in 2022. Intrepid Travel reported that 50% of its booking from UK customers were for solo travellers.
The “silver solo”
As The Independent article notes:
“One intriguing portion of the solo travel pack is the “silver solo” – travellers within or approaching retirement age who feel newly empowered to get away without a travel companion.”
These “silver solos” are not slumming it, however. They are choosing premium tours with better accommodation, smaller groups and lesser known destinations. Trips are a little longer too, reflecting the time-rich element of the retiree market.
Travel companies are also increasingly catering for this market, grading their tours in terms of accessibility and mobility requirements. Saga Cruises have a policy that all their new ships have at least 20% of cabins designated for solo traveller – and they sell out quickly too.
It’s easy to see the attraction of these kinds of arrangements for those who are on their own, offering companionship, a shared experience, and everything organised. However, for couples, it begs the question: why are they not travelling with their partner?
Same holiday for both?
It seems there are various factors involved, including the simple fact that not every couple enjoy the same type of holiday. One retiree quoted in the article said that his wife loves relaxing on a beach whereas he prefers camping in wild spaces. So, he goes on the adventure holidays himself, and on separate relaxing beach holidays with his wife.
It may also be a case of fitness and mobility. If one partner is fit enough to be on a cycle tour but the other not, then it saves one partner being miserable or left in the bus all trip long.
Travelling for work
It might also be a case of previous travel experiences. A person whose job constantly took them across the world might be much happier to explore the UK than their partner, whose travel for work was limited to the M25 or the District Line.
And it may simply boil down to an age or retirement date difference, where one partner is retired at home and the other still working. The working partner may simply not have time to travel.
The mature, free and single
In my experience, the solo traveller retirees I work with are often single rather than one half of a couple (sometimes by choice, some by bereavement). They enjoy the opportunity to meet people all over the world and make new friends. They also have complete freedom to put their money towards whatever they want to do. Many of their trips are connected to a favourite hobby such as walking, photography or cooking. This gives them an instant connection with a group who share common interests.
On my own
Life after losing a loved one is never easy, and many travel plans made as a couple will just not happen. However, being solo again doesn’t stop the the drive to get out and about if mobility allows. The enthusiasm for travel is still there, whether in the UK or going global. Travel as part of a group can help create a new circle of friends and provide gentle positive support at a time when it is often needed.
One common point that comes up with traveling solo is getting stung for single supplements at hotels, on cruises, etc. This is important to budget for, as a trip for one can cost 50% more than for a couple. However, as The Independent article notes, many smaller travel companies are (finally) making solo travel much more affordable, and some even have a “no single supplement” policy. Of course, you could consider going with a friend (just check if they are a snorer first!).
Work together on your retirement plans
When I work with couples together on their retirement planning, I am constantly amazed by how often one partner is totally unaware of the dreams and aspirations their other half has for retirement. Simply listening to what retirement means to their partner, and what they want from it, helps couples realise that it’s OK if they don’t always want the same things.
If that means one half wants to cycle the Great Wall of China whilst the other wants a week-long ceramics course in the Cotswolds, what’s the problem?
As I’ve said many times, retirement planning is not about filling your time. It’s about making the most of the 30+ years of retirement you have, to make it fulfilling, purposeful and enjoyable for both of you.
Come and talk together
If you’d like to discuss your retirement plans for 2023, do get in touch. You can also see what other couples have said about my retirement planning service in this Panthera LIFE video: